Ed Carpenter once again on front row for Indy 500

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It’s a habit – a good one at that – that Ed Carpenter can’t and doesn’t want to break.

The veteran driver qualified second for next Sunday’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, marking the fourth time in the last five years either he or one of his Ed Carpenter Racing teammates (Carpenter won 2013 and 2014 poles, Josef Newgarden started second last year) that he’s started the Greatest Spectacle In Racing from the front row.

Carpenter will start in the middle of the front row alongside pole winner Scott Dixon on the inside and defending Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi on the outside, with a speed of 231.664 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

“Being in the middle in the fifth row is a lot harder than being in the middle of the front row,” Carpenter said. “There will be a hole for me in there, whether I get the holeshot or am able to fall in behind Scott or whoever.

“This will be my 14th one of these. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t choreograph what you’re going to do on the start of this race. It goes different every single time, so just take it as it comes.”

Carpenter was the fastest qualifier during Saturday’s qualifying, was actually one mph faster today than yesterday, but as he said, “It wasn’t fast enough.”

“I heard the crowd first and knew it was going to be a big number,” Carpenter said of his run Sunday to ABC. “It was kind of like yesterday. I thought if you told me we were going to average what I did, I would have thought that probably would have been the pole. … I wasn’t sure we were going to be beat.”

But Dixon went out and earned his third career pole for the 500 and Carpenter was relegated to a second-place starting spot.

“I’m happy for the team,” he said. “We’ve got a car on the front row and a car on the second row (J.R. Hildebrand will start sixth).

“Fuzzy’s Vodka keeps providing for us, the team keeps providing for me. It’s nice to have a Chevy on the front row, but when I saw Dixon’s car, I knew it would be hard to beat.”

Now, Carpenter goes through Monday’s practice as he and his team continue to work for what they hope will be his first Indy 500 title.

“Tomorrow is always an important day to put the race car to bed and put it away feeling like you have it just where you want to be, but I’m content,” he said. “I’ve been happier and more confident with my race car, but tomorrow is an important day.”

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”